Sometimes, you just have to ask, "How?"
Six Lufthansa employees, including four flight attendants, have been arrested after sneaking in more than 63,000 pounds of out-of-circulation, €1 and €2 coins from China back to Germany over the last four years.
Euro coins have two color tones, gold and silver, and when the German Central Bank takes the coins out of circulation, the two colors (see picture to the left) are separated then sent to China to be melted down into scrap metal.
A wily group in China reassembled the coins rather melting them, then sent them back to Germany with four LH flight attendants serving as "mules." Because FA’s don’t have baggage weight limits and can typically carry-on their bags and breeze through customs, they became the ideal method of transporting this discarded money. The FAs would then take the coins to the Bundesbank (only the central bank in Germany accepts damaged coins) and turn them in for bills. The bank typically does not count coin deposits under €1000 but will instead weigh the money bags without inspecting the coins. The scheme went off without a hitch for over four years.
But greed is a powerful thing and greediness eventually caught up to gang. 63,000 pounds of coins is roughly €20,000,000–no chump change, and apparently too sweet a deal to scale back on. Finally, the ruse was discovered when a German customs agent (now a national hero) noticed a FA struggling to carry her bag through customs and decided to inspect the bag. Busted.
But can you imagine transporting about 4,000lbs of coins per year, in your carry-on bags, hidden amongst your other belongings? I hope they have chiropractors in German prisons.
It’s odd that Chinese airport screeners never caught this (unless they were on the dole) and even odder that the central bank continued to accept bags of partially damaged coins for years.
But it does make for an interesting story.